An evening of brilliant down-to-earth inspiration last night at the IBBY Ireland Annual Lecture. Deborah Soria of IBBY Italia told the story behind the Silent Books project, which started in 2011 with her simple desire to offer practical help to refugee children arriving on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. Her vision has materialised into a library on the island and spawned projects all over the world that use IBBY’s travelling set of Silent Books. Deborah showed how the books have provided common ground and built friendships between islanders and refugees by offering a silent space where migrants are equals, not victims needing the help of do-gooders.      

‘It’s a library for everyone. We can’t do things for migrants but for people. Migrants are people like others and have to be in the middle of everything else … if you want to be famous, don’t come to Lampedusa. For me you’re just a person.’

Deborah’s love of silent books is shared, unsurprisingly, by IBBY Ireland Patron P.J. Lynch. The multi-award winning illustrator and former Laureate Na nÓg spoke of the power beyond words of pictures. More surprisingly, he admitted that he has yet to find the ‘courage’ to tell a story entirely in pictures. We look forward to it!

Liz Page, IBBY International Executive Director, shared some of the work of IBBY around the world, from ‘Growing Stories’ in Peru where children create stories around the planting of vegetables in their school gardens, to reading promotion in Zimbabwean schools and collecting folk tales in Nepal.  

Rounding off Refugee Week at Dublin City University (DCU), Dr. Áine McGillicuddy, Director of the Centre for Translation and Textual Studies, described some of DCU’s initiatives as Ireland’s first University of Sanctuary where those seeking asylum are offered hospitality and support, including scholarships and a storytelling project.

A huge thank you to all the speakers for reminding us how children’s books can help us be and do better, and to DCU for providing the venue and support for a wonderful evening.